Introduction to Blog

I launched the website and the Blog after having spoken to government officials, political analysts and security experts specializing in South Asian affairs from three continents. The feedback was uniformly consistent. The bottom line is that when Kashmiris are suffering and the world has its own set of priorities, we need to find ways to help each other. We must be realistic, go beyond polemics and demagoguery, and propose innovative ideas that will bring peace, justice and prosperity in all of Jammu and Kashmir.

The author had two reasons to create this blog. First, it was to address the question that was being asked repeatedly, especially, by journalists and other observers in the U.S., U.K., and Canada, inquiring whether the Kashmiri society was concerned about social, cultural and environmental challenges in the valley given that only political upheaval and violence were reported or highlighted by media.

Second, the author has covered the entire spectrum of societal issues and challenges facing Kashmiri people over an 8-year period with the exception of politics given that politics gets all the exposure at the expense of REAL CHALLENGES that will likely result in irreversible degradation in the quality of life and the standard of living for future generations of Kashmiris to come.

The author stopped adding additional material to the Blog once it was felt that most, if not all, concerns, challenges and issues facing the Kashmiri society are cataloged in the Blog. There are over 1900 entries in the Blog and most commentaries include short biographical sketches of authors to bring readers close to the essence of Kashmir. Unfortunately, the 8-year assessment also indicates that neither Kashmiri civil society, nor intellectuals or political leadership have any inclination or enthusiasm in pursuing issues that do not coincide with their vested political agendas. What it means for the future of Kashmiri children and their children is unfathomable. But the evidence is all laid out.

This Blog is a reality check on Kashmir. It is a historical record of how Kashmir lost its way.

Vijay Sazawal, Ph.D.

Monday, June 22, 2009

Lost City, Lost Souls

Ashraf takes a drive down the memory lane in a time and place that was once vibrant with diversity and culture but today has been reduced to ugly mansions and failing infrastructure

(Dr. Mirza Ashraf Beg, 69, was born in Sarnal, Anantnag. He did his primary schooling at the Primary Hanfia School in Anantnag and completed his F. Sc. from the Government Degree College in Anantnag. He completed his medical degree (MBBS) from the Government Medical College Srinagar, University of Kashmir, in 1967, and a Postgraduate Diploma in Clinical Pathology from the Government Medical College Jammu, University of Jammu, in 1981. He served as the Medical Director of the Civil Hospital, Pahalgam, until 1983 and subsequently held senior administrative positions in the health service system of Saudi Arabia, including participation in a joint program with the Johns Hopkins University and the University of South Florida for a United Nations project related to environmental and ecological impact of the 1991 Gulf War. He is an Executive Member of the Jammu and Kashmir Red Cross (nominated by the Governor of Jammu and Kashmir), Member of General Medical Council, Jammu and Kashmir, Medical Council of India, Saudi Medical Council, and General Medical Council, London. He is proficient in Kashmiri, Urdu, Hindi, English, Arabic.)

Tagore Hall, my Taj Mahal

With the passage of time certain objects or bits and pieces become landmarks not to be forgotten ever. Thus they carve out a position in our minds and once they are removed, desecrated or neglected for one or the other reason you are shocked and mourn their absence and pity their fate. The giant size white wooden horse at Dhan Ji Bhai properties at residency road, Mir Pan house near Regal Chowk , Chaurasia pan house at Lal Chowk and Ahdoos hotel were some of the landmarks of sixties of Residency road in Srinagar. These landmarks were the centre of social and political activities during my training period in government medical college at Srinagar.

Besides that despite the rough roads travel from peripheries of north and south to central Kashmir was safe and hassle free. There were no traffic stampedes, no reckless driving - hence no road traffic accidents of the present days. Driving licenses were issued after proper scrutiny, bribery was negligible and law enforcing authorities were prudent towards their duties. Admissions to medical college and regional engineering college were on merit. Donations and caption fees were unheard of. Government had engaged the best teachers from all over the country to teach in these institutions of learning.

Tagore Hall built in late fifties rose to its fame because of hosting hundreds of cultural and social programmes during the last half a century in the city of Srinagar. Despite being in a dilapidated condition today its unique architecture is still attractive and focus of attention for anybody travelling on the link road carved out of Iqbal Park in the vicinity of Bakhshi stadium. Its close proximity to the medical college that was established in 1959 in a couple of old buildings on the banks of river Jhelum where the busy and crowded Lal Ded hospital stands today gave shelter to the students for their extracurricular activities. I am talking of the days when coeducation in the valley had just been introduced and eve teasing was an unpardonable sin. The divine teacher - taught relationship was based on reciprocal affection and respect. I am sure every scholar of those days must have scores of his sweet memories buried in the four walls of the historical building known as Tagore hall of Srinagar. Incidentally Srinagar medical college has attained its fiftieth anniversary this year and needs to celebrate its golden jubilee with all the festive. It should be proud of hundreds of its alumni who have reached to their zenith all over the world and added grace to the already graceful medical college Srinagar that has always imparted a class education to its students. The memories of the celebrations of college day in 1962 in Tagore Hall are still fresh with me.

“Ay Jazbay dil ghar main chahoon Jo cheez muqabil aajayay
Manzil ki taraf do gham chaloon to samnay manzil aajay.”

The song sung by a senior student in her melodious voice still reverberates in my ears while she kept her word and proved her mettle. She is an eminent gynecologist of the state we should be proud of. Similarly a folk drama was played by a group of students all of them though retired from active life have been an asset to the community.

Due to the influx of automobiles in recent years one has to wait in long queues on filling stations. During one such tiring waits a couple of years back I noticed a pair of beautiful but fading eyebrows focused on me with very romantic goggles sheltering labyrinthine depths of a pair of eyes behind the dark shadows that were unsuccessfully trying to hide her age. Despite the changes that age is bound to bring in we succeeded to dig the days of youth in each other and forgot to fill the gasoline in our automobiles. Hence there was a traffic jam and life came to a standstill. For a while we were lost in the memories of past when my better half the conscience keeper sitting next to me in the passenger seat reminded me that I was getting late for the prayers . It was a pleasure to learn she had had a successful tenure--- was a proud grandmother thus I hurried to offer my Friday prayers in a nearby mosque at Hyderpora crossing.

“Time you old gypsy man where have you been
Last week in Rome and last week in Babylon”

During the last twenty years of turmoil in the state the valley of Kashmir got a severe set back while Jammu has vividly progressed a lot. Its excellent roads with flyovers, its multi story buildings, well planed colleges and schools speak of its developments. To fulfill a long desire to see some of my friends who after their retirement have taken refuge in Batra College I had a chance to visit this magnificent institution where we need to take a lesson and pass a word of appreciation. At the same time it was shocking to see one of my old friends bereft of his beautiful tuft of hair holding his brainy head like an island on his lean neck, lost in the reveries of the struggle for existence, sipping black coffee in the common room. Despite the tragic separation with his life partner he is as humble as ever. Though it took us some time to recognise each other after a lapse of forty years yet for a while we returned to the days of gossip in the dark corridors of our medical school in Karan Nagar.

As I said certain objects become a landmark of a place and it becomes our duty to save and protect these landmarks. Just like Taj Mahal has memories of Shah Jehan and Mumtaz buried in that monument with verses of Qur’an cut out of black granite engraved in white marble and millions of people come to pay their homage to the bereaved souls besides seeing this seventh wonder of the world. Similarly Tagore Hall at Srinagar where you don’t need a moonlit night to appreciate its beauty has been a home to scores of historical events and it needs due attention so that it does not die with the passage of time for want of proper repairs and a face lift.

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